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Emotional three-peat for Kleinhans and Langvad

By Cape Epic, 03/20/16, 8:15AM HST


After an intriguing week’s racing in the Sasol Women’s category, Ariane Kleinhans and Annika Langvad are now three-time Absa Cape Epic champions; the Swiss-Danish duo joining Karl Platt (who earlier on Sunday won his fifth title) and Stefan Sahm as three-time champion pairings.

As was the case throughout the “eight days of courage”, Swiss Kleinhans and Dane Langvad didn’t have it their own way during Sunday’s Grand Finale, the 86km from Stellenbosch to Meerendal Wine Estate. The Spur-Specialized pair led going into the final two kilometres before the Sport for Good pairing of German Sabine Spitz and Ukranian Yana Belomoina overtook them and ecstatically crossed the finish line first in 3:53.31,4 – their third straight stage victory.

Langvad acknowledged that this has been a tough week for the pairing, after initially facing a strong challenge from Ascendis Health’s Robyn de Groot of South Africa and Swede Jennie Stenehag. Then Spitz and Belomoina found their legs in the closing stages but Spur-Specialized’s overall winning margin of 14.56 highlighted their superiority over the eight days.

“It was a difficult stage after a tough week of racing, but we are happy with our overall win and super happy with our third Epic title,” said the Dane. “Winning the Epic is a big goal. To celebrate I’m going to drink some of the great South African wine that I didn’t get to drink this week.”

Kleinhans, who came into the Absa Cape Epic unsure about her form once again had to dig deep to keep pace with her partner. As a result, she is looking forward to home comforts after celebrating her fifth Absa Cape Epic title in a row across the Mixed and Women’s categories.

“This stage was a bit messy – we had a lot of men overtaking us today, but in general the route over the Epic was really good for the women, because we didn’t get bunched with the men. To celebrate I’m going to sleep, eat and recover. It’s been super tough.”

Grand Finale winners Spitz and Belomoina, who have got stronger and stronger through the eight days, cranked up the pace to make the decisive move on Meerendal’s famous Stairway to Heaven.

“On the final climb Yana was riding like crazy,” said a delighted Spitz. “She overtook a men’s team and I was sitting behind them thinking ‘oh my gosh’, then I saw her overtake the girls and I realised I had to use my last grain of power to get to her. To win three stages in a race is amazing. I’m really pleased I took the decision to come ride the Cape Epic.”

Belomoina, who at 23 is Spitz’s junior by 21 years, was happy that her cross-country skills could be the decisive factor on the day.

“The finish was very good, it was like a lap of cross-country so I had to go fast. I saw a small chance so I went for it and luckily Sabine could catch up. I’m very happy to win three stages in a row.”

Topeak Ergon rounded off the Sasol Women’s category podium – with another third place finish at Meerendal.

Two-time winner Sally Bigham of England lamented the fact that her upset stomach affected their challenge once the racing hotted up on Sunday, leaving her teammate, Adel Morath, to sum up their day.

“Today was a tactical race, which I like,” said Morath, now a first-time Absa Cape Epic finisher. “When the men caught up with us we were in a big group and the pace was super fast but we couldn’t keep up near the end. The new start for the women has really been great for the women’s race but in the end Annika and Ariane were too strong. They have the experience together, they train here and knew the stages which was an advantage for them. I’m happy for them, they did the best.”

Meanwhile, the champagne-soaked Spur-Specialized pair couldn’t be drawn on whether they would be back next year to defend their crown. “First we need a break,” said Langvad.